CTNJ file photo
Lisa Wilson-Foley concedes (CTNJ file photo)
John Rowland (WTIC)

Former Gov. John G. Rowland is in hot water again. Former congressional candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley and her husband, Brian Foley, pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to illegally paying Rowland $35,000 in campaign consulting fees.

Rowland, who resigned as governor in 2004 and subsequently pleaded guilty to corruption charges, is not named in the court documents and has not been charged. However, a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office describes a co-conspirator in terms very similar to the former governor’s circumstances: “Wilson-Foley believed that, because the co-conspirator had previously been convicted of a felony offense, disclosure of his paid role in the campaign would result in substantial negative publicity for Wilson-Foley’s candidacy.” Further, according to the Courant’s account of events in court today, Lisa Wilson-Foley told the court that her husband failed to report payments to Rowland while the former governor was working on her campaign.

Rowland has retained Reid Weingarten of Steptoe & Johnson LLP to represent him. Weingarten did not immediately return calls for comment Monday.

According to court documents, Wilson-Foley and her husband paid Rowland to be a consultant to her 2012 Congressional campaign. But the money wasn’t paid to the campaign. It was paid to Apple Rehab, one of the businesses the couple manages.

Wilson-Foley and Foley are scheduled to be sentenced on June 23 before Judge Warren W. Eginton in Bridgeport. They face a maximum of one year in prison fines of up to $100,000.

Rowland is now an afternoon talk show host on WTIC 1080-AM. Wilson-Foley’s opponents, including a former F.B.I. agent, and an attorney complained that he used his position as a radio talk show host to attack them.

Back in April 2012, the Register Citizen wrote a story questioning Rowland’s involvement with the Wilson-Foley campaign and Mike Clark, the former F.B.I. agent and opponent in the race, filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission.

“First, there may have been a violation by the Wilson-Foley campaign in failing to report as contributions to it the payments made by Apple Health Care, Inc. to John Rowland for services that may have benefited the campaign,” Clark’s complaint read. “Under 11 CFR 102.8-102.10, anything of value given to influence a campaign is considered a contribution. Second, any payments by Apple Health Care, Inc. to John Rowland for campaign-related activities would be a clear violation of 11 CFR 114.2.”

Clark later dropped out of the race and supported former Sen. Andrew Roraback, who was defeated in the General Election by U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty.

A few months after Clark’s complaint, attorney Ken Krayeske filed an unsuccessful complaint in 2012 with the Federal Communications Commission, based on one show, during which Rowland grilled Roraback, one of Wilson-Foley’s opponents. During the show Rowland criticized Roraback over his stance on abolishing the death penalty, then gave out Roraback’s cell phone number to listeners. 

Court documents released Monday lay out a timeline of communications between the Foleys and Rowland, who is only referred to as “co-conspirator 1,” as they set up the contract and conspired to hide their political agreement.

Rowland emailed Wilson-Foley in early September 2011 to say: “I have an idea to run by you, what days are good?” The two met about a week later and that’s when Rowland laid out his plans to have Wilson-Foley fire her Washington-based consultant and hire him. Four days after that is when Rowland told her that he had been approached by one of her opponents, but would “prefer to work for Wilson-Foley.”

The two inked a contract in October and the money for Rowland’s consulting help came from Foley’s business, and not the campaign account. Court documents show that the Wilson-Foley campaign and Rowland tried to keep the agreement as secret as possible, but found that it wasn’t easy.

“Political Advisor 1 advised that a reporter claimed to know that Co-Conspirator 1 “is ‘working’ for us, which I said was incorrect. I said [Co-Conspirator 1] was offering advise [sic] and was supportive (he had the fact that [Co-Conspirator 1] was calling delegates) but doing it freely and on his own time. I said he was not being paid,” court documents read.

“On or about April 21, 2012, Political Advisor 1 drafted talking points designed to mislead the public concerning the true purpose of the payments to Co-Conspirator 1, and circulated those talking points to Co-Conspirator 1, FOLEY, WILSON-FOLEY and Campaign Worker 2.”

A few days later they put out a press release regarding the payments to Rowland in an attempt to mislead the public.